David North’s November 1989 trip to the Soviet Union

In November 1989, David North, the national secretary of the Workers League, travelled to the Soviet Union on behalf of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Over two weeks, North met with trade unionists, students and socialist activists in Moscow and Leningrad, and delivered lectures on the history of the Trotskyist movement. The trip was part of the ICFI’s intervention in the USSR and eastern Europe amidst the historic political crisis of Stalinism, as it moved to dissolve the Soviet Union. The central thread of the intervention was the struggle to reestablish the historical and political links of the Soviet working class, and the workers in the Stalinist-ruled countries of Eastern Europe, to the proletarian internationalist foundations of the October Revolution.

The Moscow Historical Archival Institute invited David North to lecture on “The Future of Socialism: The Trotskyist Perspective.” Upon the conclusion of his lecture, students asked North to attend a seminar on “scientific communism” to further explain Trotsky’s views on Marxism and socialism.

The intervention by the ICFI in the Soviet Union marked a historical milestone in the history of the Trotskyist movement. For the first time in many decades, the program and principles of Trotskyism, and the genuine legacy of the October Revolution, were being brought into the Soviet working class. The ICFI also maintained a Russian-language Bulletin for two years, between 1989 and 1991. North spoke in Kiev again in 1991, while Nick Beams, the national secretary of the Australian Socialist Labor League, lectured in Kiev in 1990.

This work laid a powerful foundation for the establishment of a section of the IC in the former Soviet Union. It led to the initiation of the collaboration with Soviet historian Vadim Rogovin.

North aboard the Aurora battleship in Leningrad on November 12, 1989, during his trip to the Soviet Union. (The blank shots fired by the Aurora at the Winter Palace in October, 1917 initiated the insurrection against the bourgeois provisional government and the Soviet seizure of power.) To his left is the captain of the ship.